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Young Bread Baker of the Year

Previous Winners

We catch up with previous winners of the Young Bread Baker of the Year Award and find out how their win impacted their career choices.

It’s early morning in Lyttleton, and while the port town is just waking up, Bree Scott and her father Ian have been hard at work for a few hours already making pies, breads, cakes and pastries for the wharf workers, truck drivers and local residents who will soon start streaming through the Lyttleton Bakery doors.

Bree obviously loves baking and her face lights up when she talks about the Young Bread Baker Competition. “I learned so much about bread from taking part in this competition. It was very inspiring to win. I worked hard and it paid off. That’s very exciting. It really motivates you.”

While it’s business as usual for Bree after winning the Award she has made good use of her prize. Her dream of opening a small speciality cake business was jump started with a trip to Melbourne to visit the city’s bakeries and cake shops, as well as a plant bakery. She has been able to invest in a mixer and tins too. Bree’s start-up business, Glamour Cakes, now has its own spot on the bakery counter, a Facebook page and orders are coming in.

The cake-filled windows she saw in Melbourne were the inspiration behind the window frame she uses to display her cakes in the bakery. Bree is building a portfolio of her cakes to give customers an idea of what she can do. Bree is also selling individual slices to give all customers the chance to enjoy her unique creations. She has also started making more cakes with chocolate to cater for the large number of male customers who come into the bakery and favour rich sweet treats.

Bree says cakes have always been her focus so she never thought to enter the Young Bread Baker Award. Encouragement and help with the technical aspects of bread making from NZ Bakels staff Brent Hughes and Natasha Patterson boosted her confidence and convinced her to enter.  “I really felt like I was jumping into the deep end. I put in lots of practice, borrowing the bakery when it wasn’t open,” says Bree, a self-confessed perfectionist.

Her fastidiousness paid off during the competition when she found herself with a batch of collapsed sweet buns. With an hour and half to go and the other contestants already finished and cleaning up, she took a risk and, rather than submit a product she wasn’t happy with for judging, baked the entire batch again. It paid off. The judges took note of her approach – no panic, just a swift recalculation of the situation and the desire to get it right.

Bree believes her presentation was another factor in winning the competition. With two plant bakers and two craft bakers competing, Bree says the plant bakers had the edge on the technical aspects of the competition, but the craft bakers’ hands on skills showed in the final presentation. “It would have been good if I had known more theory,” she says, “but the competition gave me great insight into bread and I realised there is so much more I can learn.”

Good background knowledge is crucial in the competition, Bree says, but being able to work alongside others is also essential. “You need to be patient because you have to work with others, sharing ingredients and equipment.  You have to time everything to fit in with what the others are doing. I was also very relaxed in my presentation to the judges.  For the personal presentation I spoke without notes, directly to the judges. I think that made a big difference.”

Talking to the other contestants and finding out more about their backgrounds and the work they do was invaluable for Bree.  After a day of presentations and a visit to the Chelsea Sugar factory, the four contestants had the chance to talk informally at dinner. “I got to know them better when we all went out to dinner together after the first day of the competition.  It made me realise I could make a change to plant baking if I really wanted to.” Bree has taken ideas from the competition back into her workplace, with different cuts to the breads they make and stencilling designs in flour on the loaves.

Bree has been going into the bakery with her father since she was a small girl, sitting on the bench and watching Ian make bread and pies. “He would give me bits of dough to play with and make something. And he was always coming home with lovely cakes for us to try.”

Despite this, Bree never thought to become a baker, originally planning to go into hospitality management. But a closer look at this option led to the realisation it wasn’t for her. “Dad asked ‘Why don’t you come and work with me here in the bakery’,” she says, “and it was like a light bulb going on. I started my apprenticeship when we still had the bakery in London Street, and finished it here just after winning the competition.”

Bree and Ian have worked out of a porta cabin since the 2011 earthquakes. The new bakery and cafe is under construction next door and they hope to be in by the end of December.  In the meantime, Bree has a small business to build, and a tray of bread to get out of the oven and into the shop.

“When opportunities arise you put up your hand.” This advice given to Jason Keesing has stood him in good stead over the years, and led directly to winning the 2012 Young Bread Baker Award. After deciding a career in accounting was not for him, Jason found himself doing an apprenticeship at Fresh Start Bakeries, (now ARYZTA), where plant manager Phil Field encouraged him to enter the competition.

It was a close call, but he won by a single point, a result based on his good theoretical knowledge Jason thinks, rather than his practical skills. Winning gave him the chance to improve his practical skills. He enrolled in a two week Richemont Advanced Bread Baking Course at NZ Bakels and travelled in the USA for four months, during which time he completed a course at the American Institute of Baking, visited plant bakeries and gained an insight into American culture and food which has influenced his thinking about the industry as a whole.

The Richemont Bread Course gave Jason the practical experience he hadn’t gained as a plant baking apprentice. He says the course was a lot of fun and that he was surprised at the small class size and the amount of one-on-one tuition he received from tutor Brent Hughes.

“It was very hands on and we baked a large range of breads. It is a very different way of doing things and there was quite a lot of focus on par-baking breads for distribution and final bake-off at the retail end. There’s not a lot of this happening in New Zealand yet but it has potential,” says Jason. “The course illustrated that there are lots of ways of doing things. It took us back to basics and I was really surprised at the quality. It was a great opportunity to experience something different to what I usually do.”

During his semester in Kansas at the American Institute of Baking, Jason learned the basics of baking, including wheat growing and milling. The nearby Kansas State University has its own mini-mill, which is used to demonstrate the practice of milling. But Jason says it was not all about bread. There was a focus on the science behind baking and the opportunity to learn about cakes and other sweet products, something he had not done before, being a plant bread baker.

“The course helped us to understand the interactions behind the processes of baking, and showed us how much more there is to know. In some ways, it raised more questions than anything else, but the practical elements of it were very useful and it has certainly made me more confident. The other course students were from Latin America, China and Japan, so I got to meet people from all over the world and get an insight into the Chinese baking industry.”

While in the USA, Jason travelled to Portland Oregon to visit a company that manufactures improvers. He also visited plant bakeries and got to see bread making operations that are similar to those in New Zealand, but on a much larger scale. He was struck by the sweetness of the bread in The USA. “Red wheat flour is predominantly used in bread making. The bran in wholemeal flours made from this wheat can be quite bitter so sugar or molasses is used to cover the taste. Americans obviously have a very different palate as a result,” Jason says. “An average loaf of bread in the USA has a sugar content of eight percent!”

When asked about the future of baking, Jason says, “I see artisan baking as the future of baking. We are going back to basics. We could be more adventurous, move away from tin loaves. We need more variety in our breads – grain breads, wholemeal, sourdough. We have to lower the salt content without losing flavour. Our fast foods could also be a lot more varied.”

In his current role at ARYZTA Jason “does a bit of everything.” He is officially a baker but he is also involved in Quality Assurance, production accounting, planning, and stock and staff management.

“I enjoy being on my feet and seeing results. It’s not the same every day. I enjoy problem solving and variety. Baking is a very challenging industry.”

The $10,000 grant awarded to Kyle Tainsh gave him the opportunity to travel half way around the world to attend a two week San Francisco Baking Institute (SFBI) course in formulation and functionality of ingredients. This was followed by two weeks working on a wood fired oven in a San Francisco bakery. What Kyle experienced and learned in San Francisco was very different from his bakery training and experience in New Zealand, and may now change the course of his baking career.

Kyle had the chance to meet and learn from the very highly regarded Michel Suas, head of the SFBI, while he was there. He was shown the theory and technical aspects of their decidedly French style of artisan baking, where wild yeast levains are used to make everything from sourdough to ciabatta and Danish pastries. After being trained in a very English style of baking in New Zealand, learning about the long history and different methods behind French baking was an eye-opener for the young Kiwi.

After years of working with the MDD (Mechanical Dough Development) process, Kyle found himself learning the technical and theoretical aspects of bulk fermentation. He developed a thorough understanding of their shelf life and flavour profiles, as well as the benefits of using ingredients that are free of additives. He visited a number of bakeries in San Francisco and was able to observe the sourdough process carried through from start to finish by some of most skilled artisan bakers in the world. He says it was inspiring to see 120 year old artisan bakeries in operation.

Kyle’s fascination with the life cycle of wild yeast starters, sparked by his time at the Institute, had a profound influence on his baking philosophy and is the basis for his conviction that bakery products have a significant role to play in food nutrition. He sees the future of bread in its past, as the demand for artisan products increases globally.

His current role at Goodman Fielder as a Product Development Technologist gives him the opportunity to develop new products for the baked goods market. Projects in the test bakery have to adhere to a brief which includes investigating new ingredients, costing, regulatory guidelines and plant trials. Bread is still Kyle’s favourite bakery item but his overarching interest lies with being innovative and proactive in the way food is delivered to the table in New Zealand.

“We have the ability to improve nutrition in New Zealand and nutritious food should win out over other options,” he says. “There needs to be education about nutrition behind this, but the main thing is that food should taste good and be appealing. As the largest bread manufacturer in New Zealand it is on us to ensure we get good food out there. Goodman Fielder is very good at getting behind that idea. Research and development is what allows this to happen.”

Kyle’s bakery career began with a night shift job at a large wholesale and contract bakery while he was still at school. What started out as a way to get pocket money became an increasingly enjoyable process for Kyle. He says the variety of the job kept him there, as well as the never-ending opportunities to learn. This goes for his current role and baking in general. “The wide range of products keeps me keen.”